Sunday, November 30, 2003

Oh Kitty, My Darling, Remember

Power Line has one more reason to love Ireland.

I'll give you another.

Here's a third.
The Finest Military Ever Assembled

We've all heard about how the President's Thanksgiving trip to Baghdad was a meaningless photo op. But how do the troops feel about it, you ask? Here is a sampling:

From the New York Daily News:

"Everybody was just so stunned," Spec. Andrew Meissner, 34, from Manhattan, told the Daily News. "It turned a holiday meal into a holiday party."


"He had a speech - but I was just so thrilled I couldn't remember it," Meissner said. "It made me feel the commander-in-chief really cares about what is happening in Iraq."
Lt. Dan Brosey, 26, of Seattle, said he had a new "spring in his step" after shaking Bush's hand.
"It's one of those great moments I will never forget," he said. "He was great. To get on a plane and come here!"

From the Seattle Times:

In turn, soldiers spoke enthusiastically about the president. "After 13 months in theater, my morale had kind of sputtered," said Capt. Mark St. Laurent, 36, of Leesburg, Va. "Now I`m good for another two months."

From the Washington Post:

Staff. Sgt. Gerrie Stokes Holloman, 34, of Baltimore, a multichannel communications specialist with the 1st Armored Division, 141st Signal Battalion, said Bush's visit "shows that he cares about us... It's not easy being here... For the most part, people are tired and want to go home. But the support and encouragement we get from our leadership builds a bond with our soldiers."

From the St. Paul Pioneer Press:

"I've never been so surprised," said Pvt. Stephen Henderson, an Army infantryman from Inglewood, Calif. "I had no idea — not a clue. I feel uplifted. I almost forgot I was even here."

From the Sydney Morning Herald:

Mr Bush's visit raised the spirits of US troops throughout Iraq. "That is absolutely awesome," said Sergeant Aaron Hildernbrandt, as he watched news of Mr Bush's swing through Saddam Hussein's home town of Tikrit on television.
Sergeant Gilbert Nail chimed in: "I think that shows real personal courage."

And, from Fox News:

Army Lt. Col. John Hinkley, from the 3rd Brigade 1st Armored Division serving in Baghdad, was not at the dinner with the president but was nevertheless touched by the visit: "It's a great morale boost," he told Fox News.
"It demonstrates that the president, as the commander in chief, is willing to go wherever he's sending his soldiers in harms way."

And, finally, our President's own words to his troops:

"We will prevail. We will win because our cause is just. We will win because we will stay on the offensive. And we will win because you're part of the finest military ever assembled."

God bless you all...and may God continue to bless America.
Bad Santa

A movie review from Man From Silver Mountain:

There has been some degree of controversy surrounding the Dimension Films release of “Bad Santa.” Many have found it inexcusable that a film would show Santa Claus using foul language, drinking and engaging in disturbing sexual acts. I respect the claim that it is not acceptable to advertise these actions in places where children are likely present. This is an adult film with plot characteristics that may interest children. Therefore, I am disappointed to see it advertised during the Cowboys/Dolphin game on Thanksgiving afternoon. I would prefer to see it advertised after 9 pm.

If you have seen the trailers, you would probably know if you would be offended by it. If so, then may I suggest going to “Elf” instead? It is opposite in tone, sweet and delightful. It is also an excellent movie. As someone who does not care much for Will Ferrell, I must grudgingly admit this is a charming family movie.

Like Ferrell, Billy Bob Thornton is the focal point of his film, but receives help of a talented cast. Lauren Graham is charming as the love interest. Tony Cox provides much of the comedy as Thornton’s partner. Bernie Mac and John Ritter are welcome supporting players. Thornton himself is amazing. He has a history of playing flawed, unlovable characters in movies such as “Sling Blade,” “A Simple Plan,” and “Monster’s Ball.” This is another such performance.

Thornton plays Willie, a safe cracking drunk who uses his seasonal job as Santa Claus to gain access to a different department stores bulging vault each Christmas eve. To call Willie a drunk is an understatement. He is drunk or drinking in every scene of the movie. He is a spiteful, self-loathing wretch with no redeeming characteristics. His level of self-pity is like none I’ve ever seen. Oh, wait. I just saw David Allan Coe last week, so scratch that.

Stories of a horrid man changed at Christmas time are common. Ebenezer Scrooge and the Grinch are classic examples. Art Carney played a drunk who became Santa Claus in an old Twilight Zone episode. Willie is a far more horrid character than any of these. His transformation is rather minor compared to the above characters. However, he had further to go.

The idea that Willie could find and keep work, not to mention an attractive companion like Graham is completely implausible. The movie requires some suspension of disbelief. The movie also could not have any darker humor. It’s style and tone was similar to “Shakes the Clown,” a 1992 comedy about an alcoholic children’s clown. If you liked Shakes, you would love this. I recommend it highly with this caveat: it is an adult movie. Keep the children and anyone who doesn’t appreciate crude or dark humor away.

Saturday, November 29, 2003

A Long Day's Journey Into Day

After an evening spent visiting several pubs and gorging on generous portions of Bangladeshi food, we awoke early yesterday morning to return home. We left our hotel in the shadows of London Bridge, and proceeded to the nearest Underground station.

Forty minutes, eleven stops, and one transfer later we were at Paddington station. For a tourist in London the Tube is a Godsend but I don't know if I could take it to work every day as many Londoners do. People, people, and more people in small spaces underneath the ground isn't my bag.

I also realized that there has to be a correlation between cities with subways or other efficient forms of mass transit and newspaper readership. EVERYBODY reads on the Tube. Perhaps this might explain the Star Tribune's passionate support of light rail here in the Twin Cities.

We hopped on the Heathrow Express at Paddington and were at the airport in fifteen minutes. Check in was surprisingly quick and soon we were in the "international lounge" (read shopping area) waiting for our gate to be announced. Not surprising at all, our flight to Reykjavik was late departing. Iceland Air's motto should be: "We leave when we feel like it". Of the four flights on our trip with them, only one left anywhere close to on time. But they must pad the estimated flight times for we arrived at our destinations on time on every flight.

After two hours and forty-five minutes in the air we landed at snowy Reykjavik. It's a small airport, very modern and clean with an Ikea kind of feel to it. Thankfully the gate for our flight to Minneapolis was nearby and we had a very short layover. We departed at 5pm local time.

Six hours from Reykjavik to Minneapolis. I had the window seat and the sky was very clear. I could see the moon and the red glow of the setting sun, which we chased across the sky. We flew over Greenland and the ice floes of Northern Canada. Incredibly desolate yet beautiful terrain. From the sky at least.

On the flight I was able to knock off more of the hefty (850 some pages) but excellent tome London: The Biography by Peter Ackroyd. I doubt if there's one book that can adequately capture the essence and history of the great city but if one does exist this is likely it.

I was also able to catch a couple of hours of sleep, which was remarkable, as I can't normally slumber on flights. With me and airline seats, if it's not a pain in my neck, it's a pain in my arse. Probably the same way Generalissimo Duane feels about his jefe every day at work.

At long last we arrived at Minneapolis and landed at...5:30pm local time. A long day indeed. Snow on the ground and twenty-three degrees, a full ten degrees colder than Reykjavik. We like it here?

An old friend who happened to be in town picked us up at the airport. We made it home in time to catch the last two periods of the U of M hockey game, as the Gophers pummeled Michigan State. Then we retired for much needed sleep.

I was a bit disappointed to read Saint Paul's comments yesterday on his view of our relationship. Just because he's had a tough year on the domestic front doesn't give him license to turn his back on long time friends. I trust that he was merely spouting off in a moment of frustration and that our weekly steam at the athletic club is still on.

Besides after all the trouble I went through to bring back his "special packages" for him I would hate to think that he would be anything but grateful. Believe you me the boys at Customs gave me the once over as they carefully inspected those issues of 'Gargantuan Gaelic Gazombas', 'Lavicious Lasses of Londonderry', and 'Captivating Celtic C---s'. It was a dirty job but someone had to do it.

TOMORROW: The land of the ice and snow.

MONDAY: The lowdown on London.
When The Cat's Away...

The mouse will play. Thankfully there were plenty of others (thanks to Atomizer and the Infinite Monkeys for getting my back) about to monitor the nefarious activities of a certain nationally syndicated talk radio host and report on them.

Joe from Mr_Cranky has the details of one such recent attempt and coins a new term to describe Hugh's efforts to distort the truth:

Yes, Hugh attempted to fabricate this live! In front of everyone! This is going too far. I believe that U.N. sanctions are called for. Hugh is now engaged in the creation of WMD (Words of Mass Deception). Who knows where this will lead.

While Hugh spends the weekend trying to get a handle on the whole extension cord thing (can you imagine the man trying to jump start a car?) and learning to properly pronounce the word sommelier (if you can't say it can you still be one?), I will be resting and recuperating from my recent travels.

Come Monday I should be ready to once again to join the battle against the forces of darkness that gather on the western horizon.

Friday, November 28, 2003

Totally Different Babies

Let the record show that the "Baby" I begged to come back in my post on Thanksgiving has no relation to the the Elder or the "Baby" he referred to in the title of his post ealrier today, in the context of him coming back.

This title related similarity is coincidental and does not provide evidence of an unhealthy level of affection between us. Instead, it's definitive evidence that he doesn't read anybody else's posts but his own.

In truth, we barely tolerate each other. If it wasn't for the Atomizer's constant Colin Powell-like attempts at diplomatic reconcillation, we'd already be mired in open posting related warfare. I've got a 5,000 word essay ready to go lambasting his reprehensibly naive stance toward the capital gains tax and he's one misstep away from seeing it published.

Baby, I'm Back

Well almost back. I'm at Heathrow using a really crappy terminal. Much more later.

Thursday, November 27, 2003

Happy Thanksgiving Baby, Please Come Home

To me, Thanksgiving has always been about friends, family, and self indulgent rememberance dressed up as lessons on universal truths. And also a time to rest on my laurels by rehashing old posts. In that giving spirit, here's an excerpt of a Thanksgiving post from one year ago today:

Happy Thanksgiving. Now back to the unyielding demands of the news cycle.

(You see the commitment we have for you, dear readers, here at Fraters? Other sites are taking the weekend off to spend well earned time with their loved ones and thus abandoning their responsibilities of sorting and filtering the news for your review. Other sites are using up thousands of words and precious minutes of your Internet reading time in waxing philosophic about their many blessings and getting all warm and grateful about their lives. And that's fine, I'm truly glad for them. But we here at Fraters Libertas choose to break away from the warm glow of familial bliss to continue digging up the latest examples of Al Gore's ineptitude and Garrison Keillor's verbal foibles.

Trust me, I could take the easy way out. My lovely wife Suzanne's parents flew in all the way from Marin County to spend the day with us here in St. Paul. Per usual, her two brothers and their families are here too. Throw in my parents and two siblings, uncles, aunts, three sets of cousins, my law partner, my publicist and all their respective kids and nannies. Mix in a house full of neighbors, friends and the Elder (who has agreed to tend bar and clean up after the party) and our little Victorian manse in Crocus Hill is almost at capacity for love and good times. We've finished the meal, I gave my traditional toast/poignant recap of the emotional state of our lives, the applause and hugging have about wrapped up, and now the urbane conversation over cocktails begins (and won't end until the wee small ones tomorrow). And where am I at this moment? Back in my den and back on the blogging beat. But I better get to the point here, as Suzanne has just entered the room, with a freshly poured Bushmills rocks for me, and she's very forcefully implying we need a little "face time" before we have to return to our hosting responsibilities.)

Excuse me while I get a little misty eyed over that rememberance. Things have changed slightly since last year. After investing the entirety of Suzanne's and my assets into Deserve Victory bumper stickers, let's just say our liquid position was compromised (and not in a good way). I lost the Crocus Hill manse. And with it went the gleam in lovely Suzanne's eyes. She took the kids back to Marin County and is now seeing someone she refers to as (in a soul withering choice of words) "a successful blogging entreprenuer."

Me? I'm now living in a one room coldwater flat above a baba ghanouj factory on Snelling. The only people trying to get face time with me these days are a couple of bill collectors and Man from Silver Mountain, who claims I haven't propertly remunerated him for his award winning series of posts early this week. (Read your contract pal, there was no provision against paying you in the cash equivalent of Deserve Victory bumper stickers).

Yet today, on this great American holiday, I remain thankful. For all I have (a delicious Swanson's turkey pot pie and half a case of Huber Bock) and all I may have come this time next year. Not to let the cat out of the bag, but if I can get just a few more investors interested in my next great idea (the "Expose the Ink Stained Wanker" bumper sticker), I may be returning to the 55105 zip code and to the love and ressurected respect of my wayward bride.

Goodnight baby and stay true, things will soon break our way.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Separated At Birth?

Lexapro user Glen Campbell:

and Vicodin user Brett Favre:

Glory, Glory, Glory

One of the cherished Thanksgiving dinner traditions at the Saint Paul residence (besides having “dinner” at 1:00 in the afternoon), is for everyone to recite what they are thankful for in their lives. My problem this year, as always, is an embarrassment of riches. In money, in career satisfaction, in love, in having this last week free of the Elder’s editorial control (and thus getting 100% of my posts published, instead of the customary 10%). Just where in the world do I begin?

My mind need be troubled no more, because I’ve just discovered where to begin and to end.

Google, of course, is the engine of Internet information gathering productivity, dilligently searching 3,307,998,701 web sites daily. And as of this moment, and maybe for all time, when anyone in the world wants to find THIS, they’ll turn to us first.

I boldly predicted this would happen a few days ago. But truth be told, it was bluster, a confident boast in the face of overwhelming odds. I never thought it would happen to someone like me. But now it has. You like me. You really like me.
Just Listen To The Music Of The Traffic In The City

As regular visitors to this site may already know, I spent a significant portion of last week in downtown Minneapolis at the American Institute of Architects convention. You folks may also be reassured in knowing that I am no longer feeling threatened by a certain bow tie wearing practitioner of the architectural arts. Those details, however, are strictly a matter between my therapist and me.

I learned a lot over those few days away from the office, and I'm not referring to the endless seminars I attended or even the mindless stroll through the exhibit hall filled with equally mindless industry salesmen and simple hucksters that are drawn to such events. (Never, EVER make eye contact with these people or you'll be sucked into a twenty minute spiel about how a quarter inch of argon gas in your glazing system can save your client thousands of dollars in heating costs.)

No, what I learned is that I love being downtown. I work in a dreary little "office park" in the suburbs. I go to work, work for a while, and then go home. If I get out at all, it's for lunch and we invariably drive to Chipotle or Panera Bread or Bruegger's or Schlotszky's or one of the several hundred other chain restaurants that grow like weeds around these suburban nightmares.

Downtown is different. It has character. It has Keys Cafe on Nicollet Mall and they serve breakfast all day long. I'm talking a pile of bacon and eggs at 3:00 in the afternoon. Now, while I can't say that I've even desired such a departure from the societal norm of morning breakfast too many times, it's nice to know that the option is there for me. Try ordering an omelet at Applebees during the cocktail hour and see what response your server Brittany gives you. Keys Cafe has waitresses, not servers. They have names like Alice or Trudy and if you order a stack of pancakes with a side of hamburgers, well goddammit, that's just what you'll get.

Downtown has the constant undercurrent of urgency. The streets are teeming with traffic. People on the sidewalks walk with a purpose. Now, maybe that purpose is to stay a step ahead of the armed thug behind them, but the feeling is palpable nonetheless. No one uses the sidewalks near my office in Edina. Why would they since very few useful destinations are within walking distance?

Downtown people seem busy and preoccupied. I much prefer this to the slack jawed casualness of the chucklehead standing next to me on my smoke break who finds it necessary to blather on and on about how the snowstorm last weekend screwed up his plans to head down to Home Depot for a couple of toggle bolts so he could finally hang that cabinet in the bathroom his wife has been nagging him about for weeks. If only he had somewhere to go.

There are plenty of places to go downtown. There's Let It Be Records, where I could spend an entire work day and still not find all the music I think I need. There's the Local, where I can enjoy a marvelous three Guinness lunch (at happy hour prices, mind you) while reading the entire newspaper. There are countless little coffee shops and delis where I could blend into the crowd for an hour and finish reading that book I started two months ago but never completed since I can't ever find a quiet moment in my office break room to do so.

Downtown people also dress like they're serious about their jobs. They wear ties and pressed shirts and polished shoes and have pants with sharp pleats and cuffs. They wear overcoats and carry umbrellas and briefcases. They embody everything I imagined about the working world when I was a child. It never occurred to me that I would be working next to people wearing loose fit jeans and oversized grey sweatshirts. I always thought I'd be working with adults.

Now, if I could only find a parking space for under $20 a day.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

The Legacy of Bad Law

A reader from Denver comments on the Kim Jeffries post from yesterday and the legacy of Roe vs. Wade:

As an ardent pro-lifer, I do not doubt what Kim Jeffries is saying for one minute. There currently is a whole field called "Crisis Pregnancy Centers" that, quite literally, are doing the Lord's work when it comes to steering away young women from the abortion route. And I do not doubt Sarah Stoesz when she says that "the organization offers pre-and postabortion counseling services, and that while some women suffer from depression caused by pregnancy-related hormonal changes, there's no scientific evidence to support claims of a clinical diagnosis called postabortion syndrome."

This is the juncture at which we have arrived in the abortion debate: One side thinks the other is lying thru its teeth. This sort of thinking has gotten me to thinking: What if Roe v Wade wasn't even decided at all? What if the pro-abortion side hadn't gone for the 80-yard bomb and got the touchdown when SCOTUS ruled in its favor?

Before Roe was decided, at least 4 states (NY, CA, AK, and HI, though there may have been more) had loosened their laws regarding abortion. My best hypothesis on this would have been that if Roe was not a factor, many more states would have loosened their regulations as well. While a fight would have still emerged, it would have been less of one as all attempts at resolution and compromise would have been made.

Here's another thing to consider: As the abortion procedure(s) became more and more legal, the states that made it legal would have also acted as a big laboratory for how the abortion procedure(s) would have been refined. As the years would have gone by, we would have seen how the abortion procedure(s) would have been made more humane and how abortion drugs would have been used in a more refined and humane manner than RU-486 would have been. Also, we would have seen, under the imprimatur of Medical Research, confirmation of post-abortion syndrome as a medical condition and would have developed ways to handle the psychological/social impacts of abortion. This has happened with every other medical procedure out there.

What do we have instead? We have one side, when its right to abortion was confirmed, simply digging in its heels and defending that right, at all costs. That same side will do all it can to defend its right to abortion, including using the law as a means to brutally shutting down its political opposition (see Scheidler v NOW, just decided this year in favor of Scheidler, ruling that the RICO statutes cannot be used to shut down anti-abortion protestors). As a result, the procedures used in performing abortion have not changed at all since at least the 1960s, and the number of doctors performing abortions has dropped considerably since then. On the other side, we have people willing to use violence to stop abortion clinics from operating. When that failed, the tactics shifted to using such phrases as "BABY-MURDERER!", to blockading abortion clinics, to even holding prayer sessions in front of them.

What's even worse, if you were looking for an immediate consensus on resolving this debate, is the descendants of the original fighters on both sides of the issue are now carrying on the fight in the same virulent manner. Right now, neither side will give other even a little bit of breathing room to do research and refinement. So we are essentially stuck with this debate as any means of using pharmaceuticals (such as RU-486) will be seen as simply an attempt to end the debate, rather than furthering the cause of research. Just wanted to let you see what is now, and what could have been. Pax.

This analysis strikes me as accurate. The framing of the abortion issue as one of "rights" to be granted by judges, instead of a question of public policy to be decided by legislatures has frozen the debate in time, to the detriment of everyone involved.

Over the years, my pro-choice friends have been surprised to learn that overturning Roe Vs. Wade won't mean abortions will be made illegal in this country. Rather it will just allow state legislatures to decide. And given the current political environment, I'd say about a third of states would allow very liberal access, about a third would have some restrictions, and about a third would have severe restrictions. Sounds like a scenario most Americans could live with.

Someone’s Screaming His Name

Readers of Fraters Libertas, you can stop the flood of emails asking, begging, demanding to know when part II of the greatest story ever told on the Internet will be posted. Because that day is today.

Man from Silver Mountain has descended from his sky borne perch and has delivered to me the second stone tablet inscribed with his riveting tale. An epic journey to confront the demons that seduce him and to find his very soul amid the blood stained wreckage of his breathtaking triumphs. Or, in other words, the account of his trip to see a country western show in Iowa with JB Doubtless.

When we left the story, the two of them were sitting quietly at the Surf Ballroom in Cedar Rapids, near the soundboard I think, drinking Bud Lights and watching the opening act do their respective things. And what spectacular things they promised to be. Here now is the second and final chapter from Man from Silver Mountain:

He Never Even Called Us by Our Name

The Dallas Moore Band’s final few songs were awful. The band was like a cross between Lynard Skynard and Motorhead, with far less musical talent than either. Adding to the annoyance factor was the fact that Dallas Moore himself thought that profanity was a form of punctuation. “My name is Dallas MxxxxxFxxxxxx Moore,” is an example of the childish nature of his commentary between songs. Fortunately, we only caught about fifteen minutes of the set. “Less is Moore” would be an appropriate motto for this band.

We wondered what David Allan Coe’s performance would hold. Coe is a noted songwriter and performer. He penned “Take This Job and Shove It” for Johnny Paycheck and his own song list includes “Please Come to Boston”, “Divers Do It Deeper” and “Jack Daniels if You Please”. He also recorded several X rated novelty songs. So we didn’t know exactly what to expect. What we didn’t expect was the most bizarre performance either of us had ever seen. J.B. Doubtless and I have seen thousands of bands, but never one like this.

Coe entered without his band, playing the Ritchie Valens song, “La Bamba” in tribute. Next up was a Buddy Holly homage. Coe looked old and not incredibly sharp. His band joined for “Longhaired Red Neck,” a much tighter number that got the crowd going. Things were looking up. Next Coe told the tale from 1970 when he had a number one hit. The president of his record company made him wait five hours for a meeting. At the meeting, Coe told him off, suggesting that his time was just as valuable as the execs, then getting vulgar with him and requesting a sex act. The crowd roared with laughter. Little did we know this would be the high point of the show.

We thought that he would break into another song. Instead, his story degenerated into a ramble: he had been in prison for twenty-two years, including time on death row, he was bankrupt and received no royalty income, and most importantly no one appreciated his genius. Never mind that fifteen hundred people were there to hear his music. He was particularly angry with one critic who suggested that he hadn’t written a decent song since 1975. Tonight he would prove this guy wrong by only playing recent compositions. The reaction was that of any crowd hearing that their old favorite band would be playing the entire set from the new album with no greatest hits, unenthusiastic. This enraged Coe. He chastised the crowd, explaining that his new songs were better than his hits and we were stupid for wanting to hear the oldies. We only liked the hits because we had heard them over and over again. Never mind that the reason we had heard them over and over again is that someone somewhere had made the judgment that they were good and we had concurred.

After ten to fifteen minutes, the ramble ended and he broke into a new song. I don’t think the band knew it, because they didn’t play along. The song made us long for the incoherent ramble. In fact, it was similar to the ramble, only set to music. After six or seven verses, J.B. Doubtless turned to me and asked if I thought this was the last verse. I agreed that the song had dragged on. We weren’t even halfway through. After ten or so more verses, the band began to figure out where they could join in. Their help wasn’t enough to improve on the twenty-plus minute song. We were approaching early 1970’s Yes territory, only minus five virtuoso level musicians.

The crowd was divided into three groups: fifty-somethings who owned Coe’s greatest hits, youngsters who knew that Coe had worked with Kid Rock and Uncle Cracker, and hard core country rednecks who enjoyed Dallas Moore and were probably looking to hear some X-rated tunes. It was kind of sad watching the fifty-somethings in the crowd sadly begin to file out, their hopes for the evening dashed. After the long song, Coe satisfied the youngsters by playing a couple of tunes he had worked on with Kid Rock and Uncle Cracker. The hip-hop style was bewildering to the hard-core country folk and many of them began to leave.

Mixed with his songs were some more incoherent rambles, and many outrageous claims.
He finished with a bunch of covers, and fortunately mixed in a few of his oldies. The band wasn’t sharp and he had already driven out the portion of the crowd that would have appreciated those tunes. Before he joined the encore, the band played a medley of AC/DC songs, thoroughly confusing everyone. Then he returned to play some Allman Brothers covers and a few other songs. J.B. Doubtless and I had concluded that he probably wouldn’t play “You Never Even Call Me by My Name,” the song we both most wanted to hear. We were correct. He left for good as the band jammed to some more hard rock numbers.

After the concert, we hit the Internet to research his claims. To be kind, I would say that many of his stories were exaggerated. For example, he couldn’t have served twenty-two consecutive years in prison, his biography didn’t have that kind of gap in it. His death-row claim was harder to debunk, but it’s not likely that he would be free today if he had been on death row. J.B. Doubtless and I debated whether he intended for the show to go that way or whether he was completely insane. Saturday night he was playing Des Moines. We decided to pass on the opportunity to see if our luck was poor or this Coe performance was the standard.


.... Or is it? This does conclude Man from Silver Mountain's contractual obligations and as is his style, he's fled the scene without word of his future plans. But rest assured, he's out there somewhere. Watching, listening, drinking, and being. And someday, if you truly believe, he might re-emerge to enthrall us once again with his unique, unforgettable, fantastical world.

Best guess for a re-emergence: January 4, 2004, to coincide with the appearance of National Country Artist Tommy Cash at the Medina Entertainment Center.

(In fact, if you'd like to attend that show with Man From Silver Mountain, please forward your name to me by December 23. As a gift to the readers, on Christmas Eve a drawing will be held, with the lucky winner getting the pleasure of driving Man from Silver Mountain to and from the show and buying him drinks throughout. Good luck and Merry Xmas.)

Monday, November 24, 2003

Life Imitates the Simpsons

From season three, episode 24, entitled “Stark Raving Dad” (first airing September 19, 1991):

Thanks to Bart leaving his lucky red hat in the load of washed white shirts, Homer wears a pink shirt to the nuclear power plant. He is promptly committed to a mental institution, where he meets up with a white man who walks and talks like Michael Jackson.

And this, ripped from the headlines of today’s Daily Telegraph (UK):

Jackson's legal team is said to be encouraging him to consider a plea bargain, possibly an insanity defence that would allow him to serve time in a state mental hospital instead of jail.

(Thanks to reader Slick Rick for this keen cultural connection.)

They Don't Need A Dam In The Whole State Of Michigan

In a rare moment of truthfulness, Hugh Hewitt stated on his radio program late Friday that his beloved Ohio State Buckeyes would soon be headed to the Rose Bowl. After the Buckeyes were soundly thrashed by the Big Ten Conference champion Michigan Wolverines, this might very well be the case. They sure as hell ain't going to the Sugar Bowl.

Granted, in order for the Buckeyes to take Michigan's place in the Rose Bowl both USC and LSU must suffer losses next weekend. This would most likely vault the Wolverines into the BCS Championship Sugar Bowl game while folks in Ohio (and Hugh) look on with jealous admiration. Nevertheless, Hugh's statement was a revealing departure from his regular mantra that OSU was headed towards back-to-back national championship seasons.

Was Hugh's moment of truthfulness a simple slip of the tongue or was it really his deep-seated belief that Michigan has a much better team than Ohio State? Who knows? But, I can only applaud the fact that Mr. Hewitt took a brief respite from his fantasy world and joined the rest of us here on planet Earth to tell it like it is.

Unfortunately, given Hugh's past transgressions, I fully expect him to come on the air Monday evening with some half-assed explanation about the failings of the BCS ranking system. He'll deny ever doubting the Luckeyes and contrive some ridiculous scenario that somehow ranks Ohio State above Michigan despite the fact that they couldn't come up with a win when it counted.

Spare us the indignity, Hugh. The truth seekers are listening. Don't let us down...again.
The Elephant in the Corner

Kim Jeffries is a WCCO radio personality and according to an article in the Star Tribune is involved in a Christian ministry geared toward women who have had abortions. Her ministry is based on her own experience with having an abortion in her early 20's and the effect it's had on her life since.

Given the media's hostility toward any information that abortion may be destructive to the women involved, this is a very brave, and potentially career jeopardizing stance by Jeffries. First, by merely admitting she's had an abortion. According to Jeffries' organization, Tell Them I Love Them, 43% of all women under the age of 45 have had at least one. Yet I can't name any other public personality who's been willing to admit it. And now she risks the wrathful attention of local pressure groups, since she's been outspoken about her experience. Because not only does Jeffries admit it, she's also willing to tell her story of the trauma she's experienced since.

It was all a blur. An abortion more than 20 years ago was so traumatic that Kim Jeffries blocked out most of the details. "It was like sleepwalking," she said.

For years Jeffries kept quiet about the abortion. Eventually, she said, the secret became too much for her to bear. Her first marriage fell apart. Finally, she said, she had what she calls an epiphany at a spiritual retreat -- a call from Jesus to share her story, to forgive herself and to minister to others.

While this article does a good job of describing the pain Jeffries and other have suffered because of their decision to have abortions, the writer, Jim Buchta, has a difficult time identifying the cause of this pain. He never bothers to explain exactly why abortions are so traumatic to some and why they feel the need for forgiveness. He dances around it a few times and does obliquely present a couple of possibilities:

Jeffries said it has taken decades for her to find the courage to talk about abortion, even to her parents. When she learned that she was pregnant, she had dropped out of college and was three months into her radio career. She was "ashamed of being exposed as a person who had sex out of marriage," she said.

And then he interviews an expert on performing abortions who clinically relays the only other possibility allowed:

Sarah Stoesz, chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of Minnesota and South Dakota, said the organization offers pre-and postabortion counseling services, and that while some women suffer from depression caused by pregnancy-related hormonal changes, there's no scientific evidence to support claims of a clinical diagnosis called postabortion syndrome.

That's all we're offered as cause, the stigma associated with having sex out of marriage or the lingering affects of hormonal changes due to a 20 year old pregnancy.

Am I crazy or is there one other, rather obvious, possibility? Perhaps all of this extreme psychological trauma has something to do with the fact these women are having trouble coming to terms with the belief that they had their own children killed?

I'm not using that language to be inflammatory. But doesn't even the inviable tissue mass crowd have to acknowledge that this is certainly what some of these women believe? Even ignoring the overwhelming scientific evidence about the uniquely human qualities of even the youngest fetus, doesn't common sense alone allow the pro-choicers to understand that some women, many women, feel sad after their abortions, because they believe in their hearts they killed their children?

The answer is apparently no. According to Planned Parenthood, the idea that women may be legitimately depressed based on their haunted consciences is beyond the realm of possibility:

There is a wide array of services and treatments available for depression related to all kinds of causes and factors," Stoesz said. ". . . women who find themselves unintentionally pregnant can frequently feel quite depressed, and what this points to is the need for more widely available family planning services and not services that are constructed around a nonexistent clinical condition."

Non existent clinical condition. I didn't think I could be surprised any longer by the cold-hearted, deceptive rhetoric of these people, but that's a new low. Which only makes someone like Jeffries even more heroic. Despite what she's gone through, and despite the fact she knows groups like Planned Parenthood are engaged in activities bringing similar misery to others, she understands that the radicalized politics of the Pro-Choice movement can impede any human connection. To get around that she espouses her belief as:

"I'm pro-choice and pray that others will choose life"

May God bless her and may her heart find peace.

There’s a Place for Aggravated Assault in Your Life

Continuing their editorial theme of Suburbs Bad, City Good, the Star Tribune ran an article Sunday entitled (in the print edition) “Crime: perception vs. reality.” It focuses on the “City Good ” angle by challenging the popular perception that crime is a problem in downtown Minneapolis. This theory is summarized by a downtown civic booster Lee Lynch:

Those concerns are a distant memory, he said Friday, with serious crime declining in downtown Minneapolis and the Police Department implementing a new plan to involve businesses in curbing even nuisance crimes. "I think we've seen a steady decline since 1997," he said. As a member of the Downtown Historic Theatre group and a downtown business owner, Lynch admits a small bias, but recent statistics back him up.

Lynch goes on to say that not only are concerns about crime a distant memory, the crime may never have existed in the first place:

Even a group of people hanging around on a street corner wearing clothes that other people aren't used to can be intimidating, Lynch said. "The perception is so out of line with reality," he said. "That perception can be so deeply ingrained that the fear is of imaginary things."

So Lynch is claiming that people are concerned about crime downtown because they see other people wearing clothes they’re not used to? Has there been a recent recent influx of 18th century fops, carnival folk, and Star Trek enthusiasts hanging out downtown? (No jokes about Lileks please.). Or am I being too charitable in assuming Lee Lynch isn’t resorting to naive, accusatory racial code speak?

You be the judge on that one, but here’s a listing of some things nobody had to imagine, because they actually happened. 2003 Serious Crime Reports in the downtown area (from the print edition of this article):

Homicide (3)
Rape (39)
Robbery (299)
Aggravated assault (198)
Burglary (229)
Theft (2,338)
Auto theft (363)
Arson (15)
Total offenses (3,484)

Mind you, these stats were framed by the Star Tribune as good news, since the total is a 13% drop compared to last year. (I assume this article was strategically timed to help downtown retail during the upcoming holiday shopping season).

But reduction or not, is it possible that people’s fear of crime downtown has something to do with the fact that 9.5 serious crimes are committed, on average, every day in this (roughly) 10 square block area. And that’s not even counting the 5,312 “less severe” crimes cited in this article which were committed downtown this year. Or some of the other charming experiences one can enjoy downtown, like:

.... panhandling, public intoxication and public urination can be a business district's "spirit killers," according to Sam Grabarski, head of the Downtown Council.

I understand that compared to other metropolitan areas, the incidence of the above mentioned crimes and antisocial behavior is small. But this is Minnesota, and despite the above statistics, we don’t assume crime and public urination has to be a part of what it means to go shopping or out to a restaurant (except maybe if you’re going to Chi Chi’s). As long as we can vote with our feet and go to other shopping / entertainment areas and not have to confront any of this nonsense, then that’s what we’ll do.

Sunday, November 23, 2003

Filling the Gap

One of the primary joys of blogging is the email received from one's dear readers. (The other primary joy being the calculation of the number of hours you've devoted to an exercise that provides no material benefit, and has no prospect to do so in the future.)

When our readers write in, they typically do one of two things. Attempt to destroy the essence of my editorial points by pointing out spelling errors. Or they request more posts dedicated to minute, descriptive accounts of concert halls in Iowa, interspersed with personal observations from people they've never heard of before.

Since customer service is what we're all about (as well as finding ways to create blogging inches without having to do any work ourselves), I have good news. No, I'm not going to start doing a fourth pass on all my posts to ferret out pesky homonym related spelling errors (trust me, they're all intentional and used to create populist texture). Instead, I have all the latest from the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake Iowa.

Well, I don't personally have any news, but a special guest correspondent does. The one and only (cue trumpet fanfare) "Man from Silver Mountain" (aka, some guy from Fridley).

During the Elder's well deserved vacation from the Internet grind, this shimmering new voice of Internet opining has agreed to help pick up the slack. And today it's all about a concert in Iowa, including a cameo appearance from our own JB Doubtless. Without further ado, here it is. And remember .... YOU ASKED FOR IT!

Surfin' Safari

For my inaugural post, I thought it might be fun to travel to the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa. The Surf is best known as the site of the final performance of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.D. "The Big Bopper" Richardson. You probably know their story: minutes after performing at the "Winter Dance Party" in February 1959, the three musicians were dead. Their plane crashed shortly after takeoff, killing everyone on board.

Today, the Surf is regular stop for national tours on the rock and country circuits. With a capacity of 2,500, it is the perfect venue for those bands that cannot fill an arena but draw better than your average bar band. Located two hours from both the Twin Cities and Des Moines, it is a location that can draw fans and bands from a both metropolitan areas.

I must confess that I have been to the Surf dozens of times, but never entered. My parents retired to Clear Lake, the sleepy little Iowa town that is home to the Surf. Every time I went to visit them I would look at the marquee and see names that qualified in one of three categories: a has-been rockers like REO Speedwagon or Foghat, a Twin Cities club band that I was sick of like Lamont Cranston, or a band whose name I did not recognize. Sure, Alice Cooper and Tony Bennett each performed there recently, but I did not happen to be in town for either.

J.B. Doubtless and I had talked about seeing a show at the Surf for some time. When we saw that David Allan Coe would be headlining the November 21 show, we decided to make the pilgrimage. Having never heard of the opening act, the Dallas Moore Band, we timed our trip to arrive about an hour after music was scheduled to begin.

Once inside the surf, it is apparent that the venue hasn't changed much since the days of Holly and Valens. It is a big, gymnasium-like structure with a large stage at one end and an ample dance-floor in the center. There are two to four rows of booths along the sides and back of the ballroom. The ceiling is configured for excellent acoustics. The volume was consistent regardless of our location within the building. We approached the bar and ordered beers, before taking a look at the "wall of fame". The wall included hundreds of autographed photos of the more famous headliners of the Surf. JB commented to me that the country acts appeared to be playing the Surf on their way up to arenas, while the rock acts seemed to be on the downside of their careers. Faith Hill and Styx autographs from the 1990's seemed to prove his point. We bought two more beers before settling in near the sound board to catch the end of the Dallas Moore Band's set.

Stay tuned for the next segment: He Never Even Called Us by Our Name

Will the boys get another beer? Was there a line to get into the bathroom? Did JB Doubtless make any wry comments on the quality of items on the appetizer menu? Tune in later this week for the next chapter of the continuing Internet saga from (cue trumpet fanfare): Man from Silver Mountain.

PS - per his request, Man from Silver Mountain isn't accepting any emails related to his posting. Therefore, please send all congratulations, raves, and book publishing option contracts directly to me. Per usual, complaints and spelling corrections should go to the Atomizer.

Saturday, November 22, 2003

Ohhh, Mr. Grant!

The ruthless Hugh Hewitt has claimed yet another victim. This time, it was noted space case Ed Asner. On Friday's show, Mr. Hewitt coerced Ed into stating that he thinks our own Elder is "a great, great guy". While none of us here at Fraters World Headquarters would dispute that fact, it was clear by his subsequent comments that Mr. Asner was either very, very drugged or just incredibly senile. In either case, Mr. Asner is quite simply out of his mind and, as a result, is highly susceptible to suggestion.

Consider Asner's statement that the average Iraqi is not better off with Saddam out of power. Consider that he also seems to think Afghanistan is no better off now than they were under the Taliban's rule. He seems to think of pre-war Iraq and the country of Burma as equivalent geopolitical threats and believes we should have ousted the Taliban by somehow imposing sanctions on them and starving them into submission.

No rational human being could ever concoct such lunacy, but that's exactly what listeners to Friday's Hewitt show were presented with just after Asner professed his adoration of The Elder, at Hugh's bidding of course.

I believe that this is yet another case of the puppet master, Hugh Hewitt, laying waste to another human soul. If Asner is, as I have always surmised, far beyond the definition of senile, then Hugh has taken advantage of a very sick and very old man in order to further his goal of total blogosphere domination. Reprehensible behavior, that.

If Asner has not fallen into the deep well of senility, then he was drugged...drugged at the hands of either Mr. Hewitt himself or his willing sidekick, Generalissimo. Again, this is reprehensible behavior.

Whatever state of confusion Asner was in, I believe that Hugh could have convinced him that he shot JFK, kidnapped the Lindbergh baby AND was the first man to walk on Mars. Instead, the wily Mr. Hewitt had him profess some unholy alliance with our own Elder and that is clearly not the case.

This leads one to question whether some of his other regular guests have suffered the same fate. We already know that this guy is irrevocably under Hugh's power (although he has yet to completely lose his senses). Bob Mulholland went so insane after appearing on the Hewitt show that he hasn't been heard from in months and frequent contributors Peter Beinart, Joshua Micah Marshall and Erwin Chemerinsky have shown clear signs of degraded mental capacity.

With the Elder currently on assignment in Europe, I have called an emergency meeting of the Hewitt Untruthful Activities Committee (H.U.A.C.) to decide the appropriate course of action. Members, please take note.
It's Only Snow, People!

Apparently, there's a snowstorm coming this way. Big fargin' deal.

Listen up, people. This crap happens every year. Let's not get all worked up because a few weather-heads on the 10:00 news are promising you endless snowfall between now and 8 o'clock Monday morning. Chances are that they're wrong. Even if they're not, this is Minnesota...IT SNOWS IN WINTER!!! You'll deal with it like you deal with it every damn year. Stop running to the supermarket to stock up on bread, milk and eggs. Stop talking about it when I'm out having a smoke every few hours at work and, fer cryin' out loud, stop driving like morons every time a flake hits the pavement!!!

Grow up and deal with the climate you chose to live in. (I know, I ended that sentence with a preposition. DON'T E-MAIL ME TO TELL ME I'M AN IDIOT. I get enough of that from the lovely Atomizerette.)

When (and if) the snow flies tomorrow, please behave like adults...and get the hell out of my way!
The Chickens Coming Home to Roost

The ruckus surrounding KSTP's Ron Rosenbaum continues to grow. For those unaware, here's a summary from the Pioneer Press:

The flap centers on a comment Rosenbaum made Oct. 28 during an on-air interview with [St. Paul Mayor Randy] Kelly. After Kelly downplayed Finney's chances of winning the mayor's race, Rosenbaum said, "That's another way of saying, 'Get your shine box, Chief Finney.'"

St. Paul Police Chief Finney happens to be black and many in the city, all with various agendas to advance, are trying to portray this as a racial sleight on Rosenbaum's part and as a mini-scandal for Kelly, for his non-response to Rosenbaum's comment.

The NAACP sees an opportunity to make demands and threats:

The group is threatening an economic boycott of KSTP-AM 1500 and its advertisers if Rosenbaum does not apologize... "We're not going to give our money to anybody that demeans us," said Nathaniel Khaliq, president of the St. Paul NAACP. "If it's not dealt with right away, we are going to have some problems."

Media critic Brian Lambert is using it as another excuse to bash conservative talk radio (of which Rosenbaum isn't even a member):

"..why not [go after] bigger, more obvious targets like, say, Rush Limbaugh -- a guy with 14 million listeners a week who routinely uses Jesse Jackson and other black leaders as devices to race bait, deride affirmative action and whip up real-time antagonisms against minority-friendly legislation?

Lambert goes on to describe his preferred target as:

Limbaugh and Michael Savage and any of a dozen other prominent gasbags constantly driving coded wedges between the races

A dozen? Not to go into Rocky Mountain Spotted Owl mode again, but, who who who is he talking about? Are there even a dozen talk radio shows on in this market dealing with substantive issues? Or do we have to assume he's talking about all conservative talk radio. Like that racial bomb thrower Dave Thompson. Or that wild-eyed polemicist Dennis Prager.

Then, a few days ago the St. Paul City Council, which is lousy with political opponents of Mayor Kelly, passed a resolution condemning Rosenbaum's remarks:

Council Member Jay Benanav (who lost to Kelly in the most recent mayoral election in St. Paul) sponsored the resolution that, without naming radio host Ron Rosenbaum, condemned his remark as racially insensitive.

"It's important that the community hear from us and recognize what was said was inappropriate," Benanav said. "We have a community that's now 40 percent minority, and they deserve to have us speak out loudly and clearly when inappropriate comments are made.

What's this - the government attempting to initimidate and influence what can and cannot be said in the media? Don't wait up for me as I stand by and wait for Tim Robbins and Jeanine Garafolo to release weepy statements on behalf of Rosenbaum's right to free speech and righteous dissent.
Separated At Birth?

From loyal reader G.B.:

Faye Dunaway as freakish woman-beast Joan Crawford and freakish man-boy Michael Jackson.

Friday, November 21, 2003

Some Totalitarianism We Can All Get Behind

Perhaps I spoke too soon when I mentioned (below) that all totalitarianism is a bad idea. James at Infinite Monkeys dreams of a world where we’d all be a little safer:

This whole Michael Jackson thing has got me thinking. I think for safety of the general public the government should open up celebrity concentration camps. We'll let them out for the Oscars or when they're making movies and whatnot. But other than that they'll have to stay locked up.

The conditions will be nice, like those white collar crime prisons. The camps will have all of the amenities. Swimming pools, saunas, chefs, and guard dogs. Vicious ones. Dobermans or something like that. So that if any of the celebrities try to escape, the dogs will rip 'em apart. yeah. anyhow that's my idea.

Future Shock

I’ve been googling all morning in an attempt to find the identity of the curious British reporter asking those impertinent questions of the President yesterday. Thus far my attempts to expose the ink stained wanker have proven fruitless.

But on the positive side, now that I’ve associated the phrase “expose the ink stained wanker” with Fraters Libertas, we’re sure to be getting bizarre newsprint fetishists arriving at our site via their own sad google searches for centuries to come.

(And if any of you sick freaks are reading this in the year 2103, I say welcome. We may not agree with the intent of what you googled, but we’ll fight to the death your right to artificially inflate our traffic numbers. No doubt the Elder’s heirs appreciate the support you’re providing to their unique visitor claims in their banner advertising media kit. And I must say, you are truly among the most unique visitors we have. Now, click over and buy some of that delicious and nutritious Vitaganza.)

In my search, I did run across some British media criticism from Denis Boyle in National Review Online that was interesting. Besides a run down on the BBC’s portrayal of the anti-Bush protestors, he also excerpted a statement from a British columnist regarding an anti-capitalism conference recently held in Paris. And it’s the most concise, articulate comment I’ve read yet about why socialism is inherently flawed:

In the truest, most practical sense, the Left is reactionary. Sometimes, that causes problems for leftwing columnists like the Guardian's George Monbiot, who went to the FSE gathering — only to suffer a blinding, forehead-slapping epiphany:

"In Paris, some of us tried to tackle this question [of the evils of capitalism] in a session called 'life after capitalism.' By the end of it, I was as unconvinced by my own answers as I was by everyone else's. While I was speaking, the words died in my mouth, as it struck me with horrible clarity that as long as incentives to cheat exist (and they always will) none of our alternatives could be applied universally without totalitarianism."

At least this observer, George Monbiot, is honest and historically aware enough to recognize that totalitarianism of any variety is a bad idea. I honestly get the sense that many of my socialist admiring friends in Mac-Groveland and South Minneapolis would think that as long as it’s their philosophy being imposed on everyone else, then what’s the problem? Since they’re more intelligent and compassionate than anyone else, the world would have to be a better place, despite all the reeducation camps and mass graves.

Separated At Birth?

Long time supporter of Fraters, shock jock Hugh Hewitt,


the bobblehead doll of Ralphie from A Christmas Story .

Don't shoot your eye out Hugh.

(I love the date & time change feature in Blogger)
Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions

Here's the link featuring the complete transcript of the Bush-Blair press conference I referenced yesterday. The British reporter's remarks look even worse in context, which is a rarity when I get to cutting and pasting or remembering something I half heard on radio.

Bush responds with typical Texan plain spoken grace and exposes the reporter's question as the fraudulent shibboleth it was. Notice how the reporter starts by blaming Tony Blair for the Istanbul bombing. After such an embarrassing performance on an international stage, how does this guy show his face at future press conferences? Let me guess, he has no shame. And neither do his editors.

QUESTION: (to Blair) What do you say to people who today conclude that British people have died and been maimed as a result of you appearing here today, shoulder-to-shoulder with a controversial American President?

And, Mr. President, if I could ask you, with thousands on the street - with thousands marching on the streets today here in London, a free nation, what is your conclusion as to why apparently so many free citizens fear you and even hate you?

BUSH: I'd say freedom is beautiful. It's a fantastic thing to come to a country where people are able to express their views.

QUESTION: Why do they hate you, Mr. President? Why do they hate you in such numbers?

BUSH: I don't know that they do. All I know is that it's - that people in Baghdad, for example, weren't allowed to do this up until recent history. They're not spending a lot of time in North Korea protesting the current leadership. Freedom is a wonderful thing, and I respect that. I fully understand people don't agree with war. But I hope they agree with peace and freedom and liberty. I hope they care deeply about the fact that when we find suffering and torture and mass graves, we weep for the citizens that are being brutalized by tyrants.

And, finally, the Prime Minister and I have a solemn duty to protect our people. And that's exactly what I intend to do as the President of the United States, protect the people of my country.

And that, you ink stained wanker, is why they hate him.

(It's exactly that type of irresponsible rhetoric that's going to keep me out of the White House.)

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Worst Question Ever

I heard a snippet of the Bush-Blair press conference on the radio this afternoon. In reference to the anti-Bush protestors supposedly clogging the streets of London, a British reporter actually asked this question of our dear President:

Mr. President, why do they hate you?

Now THAT'S journalism. Or gonzo street theater. Modern standards of each leave very little distinction. In any reagard, somebody get that man a Peabody. It’ll be a nice match for his brain.

The Elder - Worse Than Festering Boils?

Undeniably, the Elder has ruffled a few feathers over the years with his unyielding commitment to the crushing of dissent. But I didn’t realize he’s provoked such an extreme level of reaction from the Left. This sentiment is best exemplified by this angry Londoner’s comments quoted earlier this week in the Guardian:

"It is an outrage that the most unwelcome guest this country has ever received will be given the freedom of the streets” said Lindsey German.

Upon his arrival in the UK, perhaps the Elder doesn’t deserve the freedom of the streets. Based on his drinking habits alone, I think some direct oversight by the authorities would be in everyone’s best interest. But calling him the most unwelcome guest England’s ever received? Including I suppose William the Conqueror? The Plague? The Luftwaffe? Madonna? All more welcome than the Elder?

Irresponsible rhetoric or the result of a meticulous cost benefit analysis of the Elder’s affect on a community? I’m not sure. But in the interest of science, I’ll be charting the incidence of pillaging, pestilence, pulverization and pretension in London vs. the Elder’s home base of St. Louis Park over the next two weeks or so. Hourly updates on the data trends available upon request (which you can send directly to the Elder’s email address on the left).

Lest you think this adverse public reaction to the Elder’s presence is unique to the English, I direct you to some reaction from his other destination - Iceland. This scream headline from the Daily Reykjavikian tells you all you need to know.

Græna landið eftir Ólaf Hauk slær í gegn á Suðurnesjum

(Sorry for publishing such alarming and obscene language, but journalistic standards demand I not edit for content.)
Mind The Gap

Tonight I embark for Iceland and a weekend hockey tournament in Reykjavik, to be followed by five days in London enjoying the lovely November weather. That's right. I've decided to take a vacation from the onset of winter in Minnesota by heading off to places that have even less daylight and potentially worse weather. But it should still be a wonderful trip if for no other reason than I have complete control of the itinerary. My wife has been too busy of late to get involved with the trip planning and so I will dictate our every move in London. Buwah-hah-hah!

Can you say heavy historical emphasis?

"We've spent eight hours at the Imperial War Museum. Can't we go shopping now?"

"Shopping? London's a bad shopping town honey. If we hurry I think we can still make the HMS Belfast..."

Plenty of Churchill, Shakespeare, and Sherlock as well. Holmes is one of my favorite literary figures and like the great deductive reasoner, I have my own Moriarity.

If I have a chance I might get in a couple of quick posts whilst on the road but expect the brunt of the load to be borne by the rest of the crew for the next week or so.

Of course thoughts of my Fraters brethren will never be far from my mind no matter how far a field I may wander. In fact I've already made a list of items to bring back for each of them:

For Atomizer it's simple. Gin. But not just a bottle of the splendid spirit. He wants the closely guarded recipe to Bombay Sapphire, figuring that he could save approximately $17,000 a year if he distilled his own. I will mount a covert op to try to secure the precious formula for him. If I fail, he'll have to content himself with a bottle of Spar Gin.

Meanwhile JB Doubtless will never forgive me if I don't track down that rare UK issue of The Clash's Sandinista for him.

And Saint Paul? While I initially considered a bootleg tape of the best of BBC Parliament, I finally decided to pick up the one thing closest to his heart. Irish porn. The good stuff is very hard to come by over here and Saint Paul's small collection has become a bit "weathered" over the years.

Tally ho!

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

London Calling

More from OMIL T.S. on the protests:

My wife and I infiltrated the crowd of protesters outside Buckingham Palace. Once we pushed our way through the rows of bobbies, past the rows of media, we reached the inner sanctum of the 200 to 300 drum banging, whistle blowing, earthy, vegans. They appeared to be in the 16 to 28 age range and it did not appear that many were gainfully employed judging by their clothes. Speaking of which, I may be interested in this protesting gig, as there was one lass in a rather small bikini. I'm not sure of the significance of her protest outfit but I could dig that. Beats earth mothers. The only thing rather funny was the clown pretzel posse or something like that. They had giant pretzels encouraging GW to choke on another one - this time with more dire consequences. To our knowledge, GW did not partake. So far it appears to be blown quite out of proportion, although tomorrow, Thursday, is supposed to be the "big" one.
Walking In The Footsteps Of A Giant

Ralph Rapson is following me.

Well, let me clarify. I have spent the majority of the last two days attending seminars at the American Institute of Architects/Minnesota convention in downtown Minneapolis. Yesterday, as I was filling out my registration form, I looked up briefly at the gentleman standing next to me and was a bit taken aback to see none other than Ralph Rapson himself chatting amicably with another man (Note to architects: lose the bow tie schtick unless your name is Ralph Rapson. They make you look ridiculous.)

For those of you who don't know, Mr. Rapson is an architectural giant around these parts. He was head of the University of Minnesota's College of Architecture for 30 years and is probably best known for his design of the original Guthrie Theater. He is also close to ninety years old, which was why I was so surprised to see him out hob-nobbing with the younger generation. He's looking quite well, by the way.

This brief brush with fame easily supplanted the previous leader on my list of famous encounters, which was when I saw Dennis Quaid changing clothes in a mens' room at the Texas State Fair. (No, the time I met Hugh Hewitt doesn't even come close) The circumstances of the Quaid encounter were certainly more memorable, but as far as the importance of the figure being encountered, Ralph wins hands down.

Anyway, I finished my registration and headed to my first seminar. Who do you think was sitting in front of me? No, it wasn't Dennis Quaid, it was Ralph. Now, I guess I shouldn't have been too surprised at this since the seminar was a presentation from the last five winners of the Ralph Rapson Traveling Fellowship award. Regardless, I shared a room with the man for a full hour and a half the whole time thinking that I would consider my career a success if I could accomplish just a fraction of what Mr. Rapson has in his life as an architect. Dare to dream.

On to the next seminar, a discussion on what architecture firms need to do to succeed in today's world...a rather droll and uninspiring topic considering that I have no input at work on such matters. (It wasn't mentioned, but my firm could save a few bucks if they stopped sending me to useless seminars...just a thought.) I was seated in the front, so I had no idea who was sitting behind me until the speaker announced that Ralph Rapson was in attendance. Now I was thinking "Hey! Great minds think alike. There may be hope for my architectural legacy after all" and I left the convention center after the talk with a little spring in my step only to return to work and get bogged down in change directives and millwork details. Talk about a buzz kill.

My first two seminars today were Rapson-free, but as I was strolling through the exhibit area, I spied an old gentleman in a bowtie glaring in my direction. It was Ralph again and his steely eyes seemed to be staring right through me. I must say, it gave me a chill. I'm sure he wasn't looking at me, but I had a brief feeling of unease nonetheless.

I took this feeling to my final talk of the day entitled "The Evolution of Architectural Drawings by Phase". Surely Mr. Rapson had better things to do then spend an afternoon hearing about the difference between the design development phase and the construction document phase. I was wrong. There he was again. Now, I was feeling a bit creeped out.

What does he want from me? Has my work as an architect been so mediocre that he's tailing me just to see me demonstrate the kind of behavior that leads to architectural ineptitude? Why me? Why not pester the guy who designed this monstrosity, or this one (oh, wait, that one WAS Ralph). If he shows up at either of tomorrow's lectures on cast stone or precast structures, I'm going to ask him. And then I'm getting a restraining order.
Another Iraq in Vietnam?

Claudia Rosett thinks the Vietnamese should be so lucky in a piece at
We're Gonna Party Like It's 1941

The fun loving folks at are looking for party hosts:

With your help, on Sunday, December 7th, we'll hold thousands of house parties across the country to screen the new documentary Uncovered: The Whole Truth about the Iraq War. The documentary clearly describes, in the words of experts and former intelligence officials, how President Bush and his administration manipulated evidence to take our country to war. We've been to a few screenings, and it's a perfect centerpiece for a gathering. At 56 minutes, it's short yet substantial, and it brings up a lot of questions that make for good discussion.

This'll be fun, but it's also strategic. Coming together, we'll strengthen the MoveOn community. This is also a great way to get the word out – you can invite friends and co-workers who aren’t yet part of MoveOn.

When I mentioned this to the other Fraters, Saint Paul wondered if the MoveOn crowd would appreciate the irony that their "parties" to attack the president of the United States while we're at war, are being held on Pearl Harbor Day.
And, In A Related Story

Seeing the elder's post made me remember this headline from today's paper: Local Woman Has Doctor Hack Child Out Of Her Uterus--No Charges Filed

It's hard to give a damn about puppies when we all know what is happening right now at Planned Parenthood on Ford Parkway.

He Won't Be Getting Any Old Spice For Christmas This Year

Involved in any ugly divorce situation? Trying hard to win the "hearts and minds" of the kids? This isn't going to help matters.

A LaGrange man accused of hacking his estranged wife's puppy to death with an ax as three children begged him to stop faces animal and child cruelty charges, police said.
Nelson Muntz Could Really Mock This Guy

Our man in London, at least for the moment, T.S., who also goes by the moniker Ambassador of Goodwill, is not the only one to comment on one particularly offensive British demonstrator, who has apparently been "on the job" for some time. Little Green Footballs has a post on him, including a picture, and a link to this tale of an encounter with the nutbag, whose name is Brian Haw. LGF wonders if he is perhaps a descendant of infamous British traitor Lord Haw Haw, who broadcast propaganda for the Nazis in World War II.
I Don't Care That You Care

Memo to callers to the Rush Limbaugh show. Get to the friggin' point. Don't tell Rush how glad you are that he's back, how you prayed for him when he was in rehab, or how you wish him well in the future. WE KNOW THAT. And please, please, I can't stress this enough, don't regale us with tales of your addiction, the addiction of a family member, or a really good story about addiction that you read in Readers Digest. WE DON'T CARE. If Rush wants to talk about his problems that's fine. But I'm not tuning in to hear you go on and on about how hard it was for your second cousin to kick heroin. In fact that's the reason I tuned out yesterday.

Dennis Prager often raves about how intelligent and informed the callers to his show are. Michael Medved attracts an unusual but interesting crowd of callers, whom he likes to engage in debate. Despite the fact that he belittles and lies about them, Hugh's callers are usually a cut about the average as well.

But Rush? The callers are by far the weakest link on his show. If Rush is going off on one of his lengthy monologues it really doesn't get much better. But the moment the phone lines are opened up, the show loses, rather than gains something. I don't know how to explain it, but the fact is that Rush has the worst callers in talk radio.

They Were Broke, But Now They Have Cash

My preferences for politics and the performing arts are something I've been able to keep separate though out my life. It's the case with most conservatives. By the time our political sensibilities are honed and eyes opened to the truth, our hearts have already been irrevocably taken by the popular culture. Yes, in one's late teens there is a brief period of disorientation and consternation in coming to terms with the fact that your favorite singer/actor/abstract interpretational Indian dancer despises your political philosophy and actively works to defeat it in the public forum.

But as an adult you get over it. You come to enjoy these people for what they provide to you, whether its beautiful melodies and meaningful lyrics, passionate screen performances, or herky jerky hip thrusts and dry heaving guttural utterances. To quote a line from the movie Adaptation: You love what you love, not what loves you.

So I wasn't surprised that there would be a leftist tinge to the proceedings at the Johnny Cash Tribute Concert. The show, taped at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, was on CMT, replayed on Sunday afternoon. Clearly Johnny Cash wasn't exactly Johnny Birch in his political philosophy. But his songs weren't partisan in nature, they dealt with universal themes. And he always seemed to respect, if not embody, the sensibilities of the American people, unlike so many of today's sneering entertainment elite.

Which made it a little surprising to have so many of these very people involved in the concert. John Cougar Mellancamp? Tim Robbins? Whoopie Goldberg? Dan Rather? Al Gore? It makes me wonder if Cash's last will and testament included a clause asking his estate to rejuvenate the reputations of the anti-war Left.

There were other outspoken lefty activists on the bill too. I won't quarrel with Willie Nelson being there. Besides his unparalleled status in the country world, he's one of the few living Cash contemporaries. The ties that bind the two are clear. So Willie's recent advocacy of the Dennis Kucinich campaign shouldn't have been a disqualifier. Similarly, at a memorial concert for Hair Club for Men founder Cy Sperling, I wouldn't object to the presence of Dennis Kucinich, given the synthetic, wind resistant, and fully washable ties that bind those two.

Steve Earle and Sheryl Crow were on the bill too. Arguably, appropriate performers. Earle is the critically acclaimed, reigning dark prince of contrarian country chic. And Sheryl Crow is a pretty little hit machine at the top of her game (and she looked absolutely darling during the show). Based on their prominence in the industry, and their professed allegiance to the legacy of Cash, it made some sense for them to be there. Does the fact that they're among the most vocal and celebrated critics of the Bush administration mean anything? Maybe, maybe not, at least out of context from the rest of the performers.

But, that context included the likes of John Cougar Mellancamp. A man with no direct affiliation with country music or known legitimate connection with Cash. Plus, no hits in years. His only recent prominence stems from juvenile, outlandish statements against the President and the war in Iraq. And there he is, right in the middle of the show, butchering some Cash classic (and I do mean butchering it, with some atonal, world weary, slogging interpretation). For God sakes, if they needed to book mouthy self-styled dissenters, at least give the sparkling, precious Dixie Chicks a call and leave this gloomy gus alone to sulk at home.

Which brings us to the master of ceremonies, Tim Robbins. Why exactly was this self righteous Hollywood elitist auteur the faceman for a down-home country show in Nashville? According to reports, he asked JC to write a song for a movie a few years back, after which they they became "fast friends." Excuse me while I scoff, but this sounds about as plausible as finding out Frank Sinatra was out carousing in his later years with Mike Farrell.

The low point of the whole night, of course, was Whoopi Goldberg. In her video tribute she mentioned that she only met Johnny Cash once or twice in her life (which made her the perfect person to eulogize him), but she said she was impressed when Cash told her he was a fan of her work.

My God, is there a more damning thing you can say about a dead man than he was a fan of Whoopi Goldberg? Awfully convenient of Whoopie to be claiming this now, when there's no one alive to violently refute it. What's next, a claim that "Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit" was his all time favorite movie?

The continuing incongruous appearance of these people, so painfuly out of place, gave the show at times a feeling of a charity telethon for celebrities who've alienated themselves from the American mainstream. And somebody was trying to let them get back in our good graces by wrapping their arms around the memory of Johnny Cash. But even so, there was plenty of magic during the Cash Tribute Concert. Particularly the standout, heartfelt performances by Rodney Crowell, Marty Stuart, Hank Williams Jr., and Willie Nelson. And a couple of beautiful, sad, and sweet numbers by daughter Rosanne Cash.

I suspect Rosanne Cash was primarily responsible for the guest list. She's the unofficial spokesman for the family and, and by way of her artistic and popular credibility, their new leader. She also seems to dabble in left wing politics, as evidenced by her stated support for Paul Wellstone on her web site. But I can't really fault her for anything. It was her father, her rules, her legacy to nurture.

Coincidentally, she was also on Austin City Limits on Saturday night, and she was great. Performing her string of new country hits from the 80's and the more folk/tradition driven songs from her new album. She's got a beautiful voice and a warm, joyful stage presence. And there's something about her dark, feline eyes that pluck at my romantic chords of memory. After seeing her all over the TV this weekend, I must say I'm a newly minted fan and kind of smitten. And it doesn't even hurt to know that she probably hates my politics. (OK, it hurts a little bit.)

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

It's K-K-Ken, C-C-Coming To K-K-Kill Me!

Just when I thought that the traditional English breakfast of goose droppings and sheep sauce could never be made less appetizing, along comes this guy.
One Step Forward, One Step Back, and One Flying Somersault

Things heard on talk radio in the last 24 hours:

1) Michael Medved interviewing Seinfeld's Jason Alexander. George Costanza himself appearing on the Michael Medved show to talk about ..... something. In my brief window of opportunity to listen in during a weekday I was distracted by more pressing matters (YES, I wanted fries with that), so I couldn't hear what was being said. But the point is, a mainstream pop icon was on talk radio, engaging in pleasant, reasoned, substantive conversation.

My God, it was almost like the Charlie Rose show. Except interesting. And the host actually let the guest talk. Can anyone say mainstream credibility for my favorite medium? Before you sound off, consider I also heard ...

2) Sean Hannity violently shouting down Mark Sommers. Yes, that Mark Sommers, the former host of Nickelodeon's gross out kid's program Double Dare (and now a Food Network host, some show about the history of tomatoes). Apparently he's also some kind of raging, antagonistic Democrat, who's angling to get a show on the new liberal talk radio network.

He called in to talk the issues but ended up accusing Hannity of ripping off Rush's broadcast style. This sent Hannity into a frothing fit. He really lost it and it was pretty funny stuff. Although Sommers was quite correct about the derivative nature of Hannity's style, his snippy, self righteous tone needed to be corrected. And I guess the volume and rapid fire pace of Hannity's verbal abuse did just that. Hannity didn't have any facts on his side, he mostly sputtered about some small format related differences between he and Rush and fired off insults about Sommers lack of credibility. But he never let Sommers get another word in. After hanging up on him, Hannity declared victory. Then he rubbed Sommers nose in it for the next several segments talking about how he really "let him have it."

Yeah Sean, that's what happened, you won. And with your ridiculous bombast and sledge hammering of this buzzing gnat, you no doubt further cemented the popular press's view that my favorite medium is full of nothing but screeching howler monkeys.

But luckily there was someone else to give the medium's credibility a final shot in the arm, with ...

3) Our radio hero and shock jock Hugh Hewitt, between brilliant analyses of the days events and insightful interviews with the leading pundits, giving updates to a national audience on the Elder's travel itinerary.

Radio - what a country.

He Only Subscribes To Read The Articles

It was a bit surprising that Hugh was able to pull himself away from the Abercrombie & Fitch catalog that he's been thoroughly "researching" long enough to throw up this post taking me to task (what else is new?) for saying that the New York Times' computer was responsible for vaulting Ohio State past USC into the #2 spot in the BCS rankings. My claim was based on a story from ESPN which turned out to be incorrect. Of course on his show last night, Hugh also reported that the Times played a role in the rise of the Luckeyes. I don't expect that a correction will be forthcoming from him however. Spreading misinformation has never seemed to bother him too much in the past.

I also don't expect any more posts from the gray haired, split-tongued, "Voice of Reason" today. He'll be far too busy with "show prep" on the Abercrombie & Fitch catalog. He'll have to study each and every page in minute detail, using his high powered magnifying glass. It's a dirty job but somebody's got to do it.
Life Of A News Cycle Blogger

Need something to post...let's see...Lileks? Gnat is precocious, okay...The Crazy Uke has lived up to his name and trashed a Vegas hotel room...hmmm nothing here. What about Berg? He had that great piece on the genius of Joe Phone-It-In Soucheray the other day...emhmm...right...okay nothing here either. Perhaps Sullivan has written something that will get the ol' brain moving...P divorce...hmmm nothing here either.

Wait a minute, "via" as we like to say Laura Ingraham, the mayor of London has called Bush the greatest threat to all living things on the earth ever? Bingo!

No one else is going to blog this up.


The mayor of London has declared that George Bush is the most evil person to ever inhabit the earth. Apparently fighting against tryanny and promoting freedom in Iraq is more than enough for some of the international left to justify this accusation.

Need I remind Mr. Livingstone of a certain gentleman named Adolph Hitler who just may have been worse than Bush? Or Stalin? What about Pol Pot?

Ahh...much better. My work for the day is complete but the news cycle never stops. I will have to carefully monitor things if I expect to get these kind of high quality posts up on a regular basis.

An Army Of One

Friend of Fraters T.S. is traveling abroad and files this report from London:

Visited parliament and Big Ben last night and saw a block's worth of protesting placards across the street. Funny thing was that I couldn't see anyone attending them. These banners were 10 feet tall and were of the usual variety. The most obvious one was the representation of the flag over 15' long with the stars arranged like a swastika. I struck up a conversation with a bobby guarding parliament across the street from the banners. He said that this protest was the work of one lunatic - so much for the masses of protesters. The bobbies were quite upset about this guy - he has apparently been set-up there for 80 some days. They have gone to court to try to get him out, but free speech being what it is - he said they were too "fluffy" there. Eventually he pointed out the lunatic curled up sleeping amid the chaos. There have been a few instances of the man being assaulted by upset Britons or Americans - upset primarily about the flag desecration. The bobby explained that they never see anything - he wasn't sure how that happened. Must have turned their backs at just the wrong moment.

Or at just the right moment.

Monday, November 17, 2003

Fast Taps

Finally, there has been an improvement to beer that I can really get behind. The landscape is littered with half-baked, quarter-baked and completely un-baked ideas designed to improve the average beer drinker's swilling experience. We've seen light beer, dry beer, ice beer, clear beer, low-carb beer, "I Can't Believe It's Not Beer" with 100% less beer flavor and the ever popular Skittle Brau.

Well, hold on to your hats people because we now have "fast-pour" beer. Brewing giant Carlsberg-Tetley introduced a hydrocyclone system in February 2002 that allows draft beer to be poured at high speeds without excessive foam. This system effectively reduces the pour time of an average pint of beer from an inhumane 25 seconds to a much more reasonable span of about 14 seconds.

Not to be outdone, California based company Shurflo, together with Anheuser-Busch, has unveiled the Ultimate Draft System that can fill an imperial pint glass with beer in an amazing 2 seconds. According to the latest issue of Scientific American, the system was tested in Boston's Fenway Park and vendors were able to sell 2.4 more kegs per game than with conventional taps.

Despite the fact that the last thing this world needs is more drunken Red Sox fans, I throw my full support behind these much needed developments. Just think of all the things I could accomplish with all of those extra seconds I previously wasted waiting for my next beer. I could finish developing that cure for cancer I started back in my creative period. I could finally complete my work on the Grand Unified Theory of physics that Mr. Hawking has been pestering me about. I could continue in my attempts to mate a hamster with a lizard in order to create an unholy supercreature bent on upsetting the planet's entire eco-system.

On the other hand, another beer would be nice.
Let's Make Some Magic

It looks like magician David Blaine has made some modifications to the plexiglas box stunt he recently completed in London. Here is a photo of the magician and his box in Thailand.
Sorry Omaha

Whenever one of the local sports franchises starts squawking about the need for a new stadium and makes threats to leave town, we're always presented with a doomsday scenario wherein Minneapolis-St. Paul without professional sports teams would revert to being nothing more than a "cold Omaha". I've always found this dire prediction to be an absurd notion. No offense to Omaha but there is a lot more involved with the quality of life in the Twin Cities than whether or not we have a lousy football team to whine about on Monday mornings.

My feelings on this matter were once again reinforced this weekend when my wife and I took my mom to a performance of the Minnesota Orchestra at Orchestra Hall in downtown Minneapolis. It is my mom's birthday this Friday and we never know quite what to get her. When she suggested that we take her to a concert featuring Dvorak's Serenade for the Winds, a Concerto for Two Trumpets by Paulus, and Nielson's Symphony #2 we jumped at the chance. She enjoys Dvorak quite a bit, especially since he has a connection to Iowa which is her native state. And she also wanted to see Doc Severinsen who was featured in the trumpet concerto along with Manuel Laureano.

The two trumpet concerto was definitely the highlight of the evening. The piece had its world premier performance on Thursday and so we were only the third audience to hear it. It packed a lot into its twenty three minutes and managed to be both moving as well a great deal of toe tapping fun. Doc Severinsen might be most widely known for his obnoxious outfits from his days as band leader on 'The Tonight Show' with Johnny Carson, but the man can wail away with the best of them as can Laureano.

Throw in the solidly performed Dvorak and Nielson and it was a wonderful night of music. A night of music that I have a hard time believing could be repeated in Omaha. You just don't utter the words "world premier" and "Omaha" in the same breathe very often. Unless you're talking about the latest in meat rendering technology that is.

A cold Omaha? No, Minneapolis and St. Paul have much more to fall back on than just sports teams to make them desirable cities.

But if by chance you're interested, feel free to take the Vikings. Please take the Vikings.